Renowned Ballet Instructor Also Sews Students’ Costumes

It’s that special time of year for all people who love the artistic productions that go along with the Christmas season.  Many Christmas concerts, plays, and recitals will be held over the next few weeks.

An Erie ballet instructor has been busy preparing his students for some upcoming performances.  He’s going the extra mile to make sure they look great.

Michael Patterson is the artistic director at Patterson School of Ballet on West 26th Street in Millcreek. He is spending a lot of time lately sewing costumes for his student’s upcoming holiday performances.  Michael has an impressive resume as a ballet performer and instructor.  It’s hard to believe he’s personally taking on the responsibility of sewing costumes.

“Sewing is not something I ever saw myself doing,” he says. “But when you see you can give kids something that nobody else has, giving kids opportunities that they wouldn’t normally have at other places, it’s really important to me.”

Michael grew up on a farm near Titusville and became interested in ballet at age six after watching a television performance of the Nutcracker. He began training at age 12.  He joined the prestigious Pennsylvania Ballet, in Philadelphia, shortly after high school. Michael definitely knows what a nice costume means to a performance and a performer. So, he sits alone in his studio sewing for his students.

“It’s nice to find that you have something made specifically for you and somebody cares about you enough to do that,” he said.  

When he performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Michael wore costumes hand made by designers from New York. One was a $6,000 costume made for a performance of Swan Lake in Scotland. He believes a dancer wearing a beautiful costume will help bring out a beautiful performance.

“Costumes tell the story of the ballet,” he says. “When you think about life, life is full of color.  So when you go to the ballet, you want to see a ballet that’s full of different colors and variations.”

Michael has 35 students enrolled at his ballet school. 26 will be performing over the holidays. That’s a lot of costumes for one man to sew.  So, if you take in a performance this holiday season, don’t only think about the hard work that went into the dancing. 

You can watch Michael’s students perform selections from the Nutcracker at the Festival of Trees at the Bayfront Convention Center. They will take the stage Friday at 4 p.m. and Saturday at 11 a.m.   It will be a great time to check out those beautiful costumes.